School Board candidates weigh in on safety, more

October 15, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - While safety in Washington County schools is a hot topic, some candidates running for three open seats on the Board of Education said they were more concerned about long-term issues facing the school system.

These issues include growing enrollment numbers with limited classroom space and keeping qualified teachers in county schools.

Paul W. Bailey

Incumbent Paul W. Bailey, 72, of Hagerstown, has served two four-year terms on the board. He said he believes that long-range planning for school security and providing capacity for increased enrollment will be top concerns for future boards.

Bailey said security planning will begin when a new safety/security and risk manager is hired. Officials have said they expect someone to be hired soon.

"We are going to have to examine programs that may appear to be successful," he said. "We are going to have to successfully communicate openly with our public and involve them in focus groups that will guide us and give us direction as to how we should proceed in security issues."


Bailey said answers on how to best protect the county's students, teachers and staff might not be known, but local law enforcement and other groups should be involved in finding the answers.

Ruth Anne Callaham

Ruth Anne Callaham, 57, of Hagerstown, said that security is on everyone's mind now, but that will be faced and the most important issue will be classroom space.

"What I hope to do is work to build partnerships with private business, the community at large and other entities to address that issue," Callaham said.

She said other communities have had successful arrangements in which local businesses donate money, and school areas, such as cafeterias or hallways, are named after those businesses.

"It's not enough space," Callaham said.

It's also not the right kind of space, she said, since many of the county's schools were built under the open-space concept.

"Things change," she said. "And you have to be able to find the money to change with it."

Callaham mentioned alternative financing and passing costs on to developers as ways to fund new schools and improvements and maintenance to existing schools.

Jacqueline B. Fischer

Incumbent Jacqueline B. Fischer, 60, of Clear Spring, who has served one term on the Board of Education, said growth is the main issue facing the county's school system.

"As facilities chair I'm working hard to come up with a successful mitigation plan that is transparent, fair to all developers big and small and yet takes care of the needs being created by the growth in the county," she said.

Fischer said she believed that policy would be complete in about one month.

"I see this as a very critical situation for the county," she said.

There is about $80 million to $90 million in maintenance needed for existing schools, Fischer said. County tax dollars will be needed to maintain and operate these schools.

"We need another source of money, which I see as coming from the developers because they are causing the growth," she said. "My personal belief is that those developers are the ones who should provide the seat costs. If you create 10 seats, you should pay what it would cost for 10 seats."

Wayne M. Kretzer Jr.

Wayne M. Kretzer Jr., 38, of Hagerstown, said that when he first decided to run for a seat on the school board he was focused on health and fitness for the county's students. Now, he said, he believes the biggest issue facing the school system is security.

"Since (the school shooting) at Columbine (High School) security should have been a priority," Kretzer said. "It was not a big priority obviously."

He said doors should be locked and parents, teachers, administrators and volunteers should devote time to securing the schools.

Teachers, administrators, school board members and central office staff should wear identification badges when at the schools, he said.

"If they don't have that badge, then they should not take offense to someone questioning them while they're in the building," Kretzer said.

He said he was unsure whether a police officer was needed at each school.

He said students should be encouraged to talk with teachers and administrators if they know of a threat or see suspicious activity.

Kretzer added that the school system's use of portable classrooms might add to security problems.

Virginia Powers

Virginia Powers, 46, of Hagerstown, said safety is the biggest problem that needs to be solved.

"I think that each school should be visited independently," she said. "I don't believe every school requires the same amount of security, but that each school should get whatever it is that they need."

Powers said doors at schools should be locked, and someone should answer an intercom at the front entrance.

"A visitor to your home has to ring the door bell, be seen and identified before being able to come in," she said. "Why not at schools?"

Powers said she was unsure whether security can be accomplished while making schools parent friendly.

The Herald-Mail Articles